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Academic and general staff at the

Thursday, 3 June 2004

Academic and general staff at the University of Otago walked off the job this afternoon in protest at salary offers made by the University to renew collective employment agreements. More than 400 staff took part in a protest march at the University, culminating in a walk through the library which was being kept open by the University's Director of Human Resources.

Non-clinical staff at the Otago Schools of Medicine in Wellington and Christchurch also took strike action this afternoon. The decision to take industrial action came after a failure to reach agreement between the unions and University in negotiations to renew the two collective employment agreements.

The unions are claiming a 4% salary increase, backdated to 1 February. In response, the University is offering a 3% salary increase, from 1 May, to general staff and academic staff below the rank of lecturer, and a restructuring of the salary scales for lecturer and above. This would result in salary increases of between 3.5% and 4.8%, and remove some steps from the salary scales.

Speaking on behalf of the combined university unions, Association of University Staff (AUS) Otago Branch President, Dr Shef Rogers, said that the unresolved issues centred on differential pay offers, backdating, and the overall level of the pay increase offered. Dr Rogers said the attitudes of the parties had hardened after the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Graeme Fogelberg, emailed staff directly outlining the offer and implying that the unions had not accurately reported it. He said that a number of staff believed that the Vice-Chancellor's action was unnecessarily provocative in the current industrial climate.

This afternoon the University sent an email to striking union members suspending them, advising that pay would be deducted for the duration of the strike action. It follows earlier suspension notices sent yesterday, but which were invalid.

At meetings held earlier in the week, Otago staff gave the unions' bargaining team power to call further "rolling action", including withholding exam marks.

The unions have advised the University that they remain open to negotiation and prepared to engage in mediation. The University has declined mediation.


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